EUROCONTROL issues the first "Propagation of air transport delays in Europe" study

Between 40% and 50% of delays in Europe are actually reactionary or knock-on delays, according to a new study published today by EUROCONTROL.

The study, ‘Propagation of Air Transport Delays in Europe’ is the first pan-European study on reactionary delays based on actual data provided by more than 120 airlines. The study focuses on three types of airline operation: traditional scheduled operating in a hub-and-spoke operation, low-cost carriers and point-to-point operations. It has four key findings:

# in general, hub-and-spoke flights have less reactionary delay than point-to-point and low-cost flights because they have a higher ability to absorb delay during the turn-around time.  On the other hand, low-cost operations absorb notably more delay in the block to block phase than the other operations.

# short delays tend to propagate longer through the network, in some cases an initial short delay can cause three times as much delay to later flights.  

# major hub airports affect dozens of other airports through reactionary delays but affect their own operations most  – with up to 56% of delay returned to an airport after a first delayed flight.

# 50% of primary delays are recovered during the next flight.

“This is a ground-breaking study which has the potential to make a major contribution to how airports and airlines view and manage delays,” said David Marsh (Head of Forecasting and Traffic Analysis unit at EUROCONTROL). “It clearly shows that with more detailed reporting and analysis, it is possible to quantify the impact of propagated delays which form nearly half of all the delay minutes in Europe”

The study was carried out by RWTH Aachen University and EUROCONTROL and covers delays across Europe in 2008.  2008 figures were used as air traffic in that year was more representative of traffic as a whole over the past five years than traffic in 2009.

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